For this year’s Shepherds 360 Conference a bold, yet relevant theme was decided upon for our gathering in October. Why not talk about our differences? The idea is not for us to squabble over controversial issues or to give a platform to false teaching. Rather, we are taking an intentional look at the areas where fellow believers who hold to a high view of Scripture come to different conclusions with regard to biblical theology and practice.
How do Christian leaders who agree on such vital elements of the faith—sola scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus—arrive at different perspectives on some of the key debates? Even within an evangelical tradition, there are a range of views on issues such as new creation vs. old earth, complementarian vs. egalitarian, cessation vs. non-cessation, covenant vs. dispensational theology and the like. And when it comes to orthopraxy, differences in our methods range from expository preaching vs. other styles, to normative vs. regulative worship and questions of church polity.
Some of the disagreements between brethren are more minute. Say you agree on elder leadership vs. a congregational or deacon leadership model. Now what about elder-rule vs. elder-led? There are many non-cardinal issues where Bible-believing brothers and sisters respectfully disagree with each other, and that’s okay. What we need to do—and this is the point of having a conference like this—is to be able to fairly represent the views of others with whom we disagree and also to ensure that our own views are well-grounded in a consistent hermeneutic of Scripture.
Should we ignore our differences of interpretation and practice? Certainly not. Spiritual maturity requires interacting with various views and knowing how to give an answer to them (Eph. 4:14). Understanding others’ viewpoints and even correcting them when necessary is a sign of maturity, not divisiveness. After all, the “Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome,” but should be trained for “correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). All the while, we must be open to correction from fellow believers ourselves, for “instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still” (Prov. 9:9).
I so look forward to hearing from my fellow laborers in the faith this October—the likes of Al Mohler, Mark Bailey, Costi Hinn, Alex Strauch, Owen Strachan, Jared Wilson, Michael Vlach, Erwin Lutzer, Bruce Ware and many others. As we prepare for meeting in the fall, I have asked them to write down their Scriptural perspectives that will give us a preliminary look at our conference theme. What is to follow in this blog series will be a number of insightful articles, written by experienced theologians and defenders of the faith, well-versed in Scripture, who will introduce some of the important issues we’ll look at when we meet together.
As pastors and church leaders, we understand that Biblical interpretation matters. It shapes our thinking and practice in every area of church and life. It also shapes the direction and personality of our local churches – who we are and what we do is shaped by what we believe. Therefore, we want to be careful to model application that is consistent with a sound Scriptural hermeneutic. Let’s consider how we might learn by interacting with various views on issues where Bible-believing Christians might disagree with one another. And may it drive us deeper into the living Word as we seek to understand and apply Scripture’s sufficient truth to every aspect of our lives.